Is Vandalism A Crime? Protesters Who Tore Down A Confederate Statue Could Be Charged
On Monday, just days after white supremacist and pro-Confederacy protests in Charlottesville, Virginia turned deadly, a group of anti-racist demonstrators in Durham, North Carolina took matters into their own hands. They descended on a Confederate monument and tore it to the ground, dismantling a statue dedicated to the explicitly racist rebellion side of the Civil War without going through any of the official channels to do so. That means punishment may be on the way, and the Confederate statue protesters could be criminally charged, according to ABC News.
The sheriff of Durham County, Mike Andrews, reportedly described the incident as "civil disobedience no longer being civil," and sharply criticized the protesters for tearing down the statue of the Confederate soldier. Furthermore, he said that his department was using videos of the incident to try to identify and punish the people involved:
I am grateful the events that unfolded Monday evening did not result in serious injury or the loss of life, but the planned demonstration should serve as a sobering example of the price we all pay when civil disobedience is no longer civil... As the sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct. With the help of video captured at the scene, my investigators are working to identify those responsible for the removal and vandalism of the statue.
The display of these kinds of monuments on public ground has been a subject of furious debate of late, owing to the fact that they represent tributes and remembrances to an armed rebellion undertaken explicitly to protect the institution of slavery.
Some conservatives and white supremacists have attempted to obscure or muddy this history over the years, but the facts are the facts: The Civil War was fought because the Confederate south wanted to continue keeping black people as slaves, and such monuments are nothing if not salutes to that racist legacy.
The recent tumult in Charlottesville began with a Friday night protest on the grounds of the University of Virginia, where white supremacist demonstrators carried torches and chanted slogans like "Jews will not replace us" while marching against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The so-called "Unite the Right" protest the following day, which included neo-Nazis openly displaying swastikas, was the one that included a fatal attack on anti-racist counter-protesters.
Increasingly, cities and states throughout the South have been removing these sorts of Confederate monuments -- although as is apparent, not without a backlash. It remains to be seen whether any charges will be successfully brought against the people who tore down the statue in Durham.